President will also touch on immigration reform, withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and North Korea’s nuclear tests
• Live blog: state of the union kickstarts Obama’s second term
Barack Obama will use his state of the union address to paint his second presidential term as an opportunity to restore “the basic bargain” which built the US into the world’s greatest economic power by ensuring prosperity for the great bulk of Americans and not the privileged few.
The president will tell Congress that it is this generation’s task to return to a time when US governments represented all the people, according to extracts released by the White House. But he will also pledge that his proposals to bolster employment will not add to the deficit.
“It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” the president will tell Congress. “It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours.”
The key to that, the president will say, is a focus on the creation of “good middle-class jobs” – an acknowledgement that even though the economy has picked up over the past four years, many people were forced from well-paid work into minimum-wage jobs.
“That must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: how do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” he will say.
“Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”
The Republican response to Obama is to be delivered by Florida senator Marco Rubio – a reflection of his party’s attempts to reposition itself as more moderate after its defeat in the presidential election and to win back Latino voters driven away by Republican legislation and rhetoric on immigration.
Rubio intends to challenge Obama’s assertion that it is government policies that decide the fate of America’s middle class.
“This opportunity – to make it to the middle class or beyond no matter where you start out in life – it isn’t bestowed on us from Washington. It comes from a vibrant free economy where people can risk their own money to open a business,” he will say, according to extracts released by Rubio’s office. “Presidents in both parties – from John F Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems.”
Rubio will note that the economy shrank in the last quarter of 2012 and blame the president’s policies, including tax increases for the wealthy.
“If we can get the economy to grow at just 4% a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4tn dollars over the next decade. Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4tn. That’s why I hope the president will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy,” Rubio will say.
However, the senator’s remarks risk suggesting to Americans that the Republican party is not changing and remains primarily committed to protecting the rich.
The emphasis on jobs and the economy is expected to be central to Obama’s speech but the administration has indicated he will also touch on a wide range of other ambitions for his second term including comprehensive immigration reform. He intends to announce he will withdraw a little more than half the 66,000 troops the US has in Afghanistan by this time next year as the Pentagon prepares for the final pullout of combat forces by the end of 2014.
Obama is also likely to be pressed into addressing North Korea’s latest nuclear weapons test even as he calls for a sharp drawdown in the number of nuclear warheads, proposing to drop the US arsenal from about 1,700 to 1,000.
The president is also expected to call for a measure of gun control following the massacre of children in Newtown.
The White House and Democratic members of Congress have invited dozens of victims of gun crime or their relatives to attend the speech. Among Michelle Obama’s guests will be the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who participated in the president’s inaugural parade last month and was then killed in a shooting in Chicago.
Among others attending the speech will be former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was badly wounded in a shooting two years ago.
To counter the move by supporters of more gun control, a Texas congressman, Steve Stockman, has invited the rock musician Ted Nugent to attend. Nugent is an ardent supporter of the National Rifle Association who last year said he would either be “dead or in jail” if Obama were re-elected.
Obama is also expected to tick boxes on the need to combat climate change and speak in favour of clean energy, although there appears to be little chance of the president getting major environmental legislation through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
One Nation Labour will reach out to voters alienated in the 80s and resist vested interests, party leader will tell Fabian Society
Ed Miliband is to set himself apart from old and New Labour when he declares that both strands in his party’s postwar history have lost relevance in 21st-century Britain.
In his first speech of the new year, Miliband will say his new one nation Labour will reach out to voters alienated by the party in the 1980s while standing up to the vested interests courted by the party in government over the past decade.
“New Labour rightly broke from old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country,” Miliband will tell the Fabian Society on Saturday. “New Labour, unlike old Labour, pioneered the idea of rights and responsibilities. From crime to welfare to antisocial behaviour, New Labour was clear that we owe duties to each other as citizens.”
But Miliband will say that New Labour, which was famously launched with a “prawn cocktail” charm offensive in the City of London, failed to stand up to big businesses. He will say: “By the time we left office, too many of the people of Britain didn’t feel as if the Labour party was open to their influence, or listening to them.”
The Labour leader sees this speech as a chance to show that his address to the Labour conference last year, in which he first spoke of creating a one nation party, was not just a simple political slogan.
He regards it as a coherent political project which will achieve two broad goals: give an honest account of the party’s past and set out a governing framework for the economy, society and politics.
On the economy, Miliband believes a Labour government would provide greater opportunities than the Tories and New Labour, which “skewed the system to the powerful few”, in the words of one source.
Miliband believes his society theme highlights his determination to focus on greater responsibility from top to bottom, with bankers expected to show restraint in remuneration and responsibility in lending, and welfare recipients expected to seek work.
On the politics theme, Miliband will also focus on empowerment – helping people to feel involved and appreciated.
One example is on immigration, as Miliband makes clear that people should feel free within certain bounds to voice concerns.
He will distance himself from his mentor, Gordon Brown, who famously described the Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy as a “bigoted woman” after she raised concerns with the then PM about immigration during the election.
Miliband will say: “I bow to nobody in my celebration of the multi-ethnic, diverse nature of Britain. But high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.”
Miliband will also say that his new approach stands in stark contrast to what is described as the government’s “old trickle-down divisive ideology” in which taxes are cut for the rich while benefits for the poor rise below the rate of inflation.
He will say: “Can David Cameron answer this call for one nation? This week shows yet again why he can’t. At the Ronseal relaunch, all we saw was an empty tin with no vision for the future of our country and an attempt to divide the country between scroungers and strivers.”
Int’l Announces its Acquisition of
Union Express Co. Ltd. in Beijing, China
Also: What immigration reform really means. And media mentions of fiscal cliff vs. debt ceiling.
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Barack Obama’s steeliness has earned him his second term as president of the US. Now he needs to seal it
Put to one side for a moment who won the most polarised and bitterly contested presidential election of modern times. Think about what won. Healthcare reform won, not only because Barack Obama’s victory ensured that the law cannot be repealed in its entirety, but symbolically, too, on the ballot paper in Florida. The amendment banning federal mandates for obtaining health insurance would have had no practical effect after the supreme court upheld federal law, but the antis were denied even the opportunity of sending a political signal. Key programmes such as Medicare and Medicaid, whose budgets would have been slashed, had a good election night, too.
More voters were convinced that the rich had to pay more taxes than were not. Social liberalism notched up victories – from Maine and Maryland becoming the first states to approve same-sex marriage, to Wisconsin, where Tammy Baldwin was elected as the first openly gay member of Senate. Pro-choice campaigners saw the political fortunes of their nemeses Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock implode. Public support for the death penalty was, according to some, on the wane. The electorate may be just as polarised, but after a result like this it is harder to argue that America is as gridlocked as the dysfunction in Washington suggests. Something has changed. The electorate is dynamic, vibrant and capable of embracing new ideas. It has only just started, but the change that Mr Obama heralded before his first term as president may finally be on its way.
Coalition of the ascendant
And whose voices prevailed? They have been variously called the coalition of the ascendant and New America. These groups are demographically on the march: voters below the age of 44, minorities, college-educated women voters. For Mitt Romney to have used the immigration debate as a way of feeding red meat to the party faithful, and to have alienated so many Latinos as a result, could have been a costlier decision in swing states than suggesting that Detroit should go bankrupt. While the Republicans seemed to eject from their big tent the very people they needed to win the election, the Democrats were concentrating Karl Rove-like in targeting auto workers and each of these demographics. Perhaps it is no accident that Mr Rove’s evening as a television pundit ended in a bust-up with Fox News, who rightly called Ohio for Mr Obama. The Democratic campaign realised what the self-obsessed GOP could not: the coalition of the ascendant represents a structural change. In 2004, George W Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote. Four years later, John McCain got 31%. On Wednesday, Romney got just 27%.
The party that failed to see this is belatedly feeling the consequences of being too old, too white, and too male. The Republican caucus returned to the House of Representatives could make the same mistake of thinking that they had a good election and that little for them has changed. They still control the house, the Democrats the Senate and the White House. On the surface government remains gridlocked. But any of a large field of next-generation leaders pondering their chances for 2016, such as the senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, the man to whom Republicans might turn to broaden the demographic appeal of the party, will also be counting the cost of continued Washington gridlock, especially if it is on immigration reform. It will be interesting to see just how hard and how long the house speaker, John Boehner, maintains that Mr Obama lacks a mandate to break the cold war on taxes.
A steelier president
To remind America that he still considers himself on a mission, that his mission is ambitious, and that he remains, after all the setbacks and disappointments of his first term, the same man, Mr Obama consciously reserved the best words of the campaign for his victory speech. Nice though they are to hear, the mood today is very different from 2008 and the test of his new-found executive purpose will come soon. He has got just over seven weeks before Americans will be hit with a combination of massive spending cuts and tax hikes. Unless Congress acts, the economy will go over this “fiscal cliff”; and over the next weeks the president can expect to hear incessant demands to broker a deal with Republicans.
The event is real enough. Should it happen, a
London mayor’s remarks highlight concerns over potentially damaging effect immigration cap may have on economy
The London mayor Boris Johnson is to re-enter the highly charged immigration debate as he urges ministers to “allow the best and brightest to come here, contribute and thrive” – remarks that underline his concerns at the way the coalition’s immigration cap may be damaging the UK economy .
He also endorsed the establishment of a new cross-party immigration group, Migration Matters, to act as a factual and campaigning counterweight to Migration Watch, the frequently cited anti-immigration pressure group.
In a letter to the new group, Johnson describes how the Olympic and Paralympic games have provided a “tremendous boost, showcasing Britain and London right around the globe”.
He says: “The priority for my administration is stimulating jobs and growth in the capital. In an increasingly globalised economy success depends on encouraging a talented and diverse workforce to London.
“We want a well-managed migration system that secures our borders and allows the best and the brightest to come here, contribute and thrive.”
He also praises the formation of Migration Matters, saying “your principle aim is an important one in an area often riddled with inaccurate claims, differing opinion and consequently strains and tensions”.
The new group is to be co-chaired by Barbara Roche, the former Labour immigration minister, and Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon South.
The new group has the backing of business executives and senior union figures, and due to its all-party basis it will not take a specific view on an immigration cap, apart from to call for it to be implemented so the best and brightest are not excluded.
Johnson has set up a wide-ranging inquiry into the London labour market, skills, immigration and why many London-born workers do not seem to be able to find work in key jobs growth areas.
Ed Miliband also intervened in the debate on Thursday, saying: “I think in terms of low-skilled migration I think it is too high and I think we need to do something about it.”
He added: “The issue that has not been properly addressed by politicians is when people come into the country, particularly from eastern Europe, are they coming in a way that has economic benefits not just for the country as a whole but for people in it across the board, or is it being done in a way that is used to undercut people already here and exploit those coming here?”
The Labour leader said he was opposed to the government’s plan to get the numbers down to tens of thousands, and said there was no prospect at this stage of the free movement of labour in the EU being abandoned.
Johnson has asked whether deeper cultural issues prompt the mismatch in the south-east labour market.
He has asked: “Why do immigrant workers seem to look at a job in McDonald’s or Starbucks as a stepping stone, while some who were born here apparently regard it as a dead end?
“Is the problem just to do with pay and conditions? Is it really true that immigrants will work harder for less? Is there really a difference in the ‘work ethic’, or is that an urban myth?”